Good morning, Data Sheet readers. Google was closer to a federal antitrust suit than we realized. Amazon got the green light for drone experiments. Plus, “people analytics” technology could make employee productivity measures far more tangible. Is your company ready for the cultural impact? Remember, send feedback to email@example.com. Have a terrific weekend!
TOP OF MIND
FTC staff recommended suing Google. Everyone’s buzzing over an agency staff report from three years ago—disclosed by accident as part of a records request—that advised challenging the Internet giant’s business practices in three areas.
The FTC’s investigation into Google was no secret, given its virtual monopoly in the search business—and the potential for it to wield that influence in other areas. We knew this document existed, but the criticisms contained within are harsher than realized, especially considering that the commissioners ultimately asked the company to agree with some voluntary changes instead. When it closed the investigation, the FTC said those modifications “offered more relief for American consumers faster than any other option.”
Ah, but what about competitors?
The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, reports that the revelation might very well inspire new complaints. Here’s a very telling statement from the document: the “evidence paints a complex portrait of a company working toward an overall goal of maintaining its market share by providing the best user experience, while simultaneously engaging in tactics that resulted in harm to many vertical competitors, and likely helped to entrench Google’s monopoly power over search and search advertising.”
At the very least, all of this should be really interesting to the EU antitrust authorities still investigating Google’s practices in Europe.
Who does the best job with “content recommendations”? The competition between leaders Taboola and Outbrain is growing fiercer, which is great news for digital marketers hoping to make their online advertising budgets go farther.
Amazon drone test cleared for takeoff. The e-commerce giant is allowed to experiment, but only if it shares scads of data with the FAA. Plus, flight restrictions could make its idea of delivering packages doorsteps impractical.
Remember this name. Indian startup Snapdeal.com, backed by both eBay and SoftBank, is looking for another $1 billion in capital. An investment of that size boost its valuation to nearly $7 billion, making it the country’s second most valuable startup, reports the WSJ.
Could wearable technology be bad for your health? That’s the implied undertone of an essay by New York Times columnist Nick Bilton, who fusses over potential radiation. Personally, I think his fears are unfounded. Then again, there’s been very little research on the matter and maybe this deserves a closer look.
Time to get ready for ‘people analytics’
Quantifying employee productivity is usually a rather qualitative, subjective exercise. But apparently, someone’s electronic calendar and email behavior can speak volumes about about his or her impact across an organization.
By examining this data in aggregate, for example, one manufacturing company, discovered some of its junior managers spent more than 30 hours every week “managing up” with reports to senior executives or in status meetings. Bottom line: that left just 10 hours of time for “real” work for the host, not to mention the ripple effect across their own teams.
“You can quickly see the ‘load’ senior executives are imposing, as well as the social graph of who else is affected,” said Ryan Fuller, co-founder of Volometrix, which sells software for measuring all this.
Using that insight, the manufacturer embraced a policy of fewer meetings. VoloMetrix sends status updates that remind people to stay true to that policy.
Welcome to the brave new world of “people analytics,” which uses time management data to help companies understand the relationships—external and internal—driving corporate decision-making. “Once a company understands the behaviors that correlate to success, they can measure them,” Fuller said.
Volometrix, which has raised $17 million in venture financing (including a $12 million round last fall), counts several dozen large companies including Boeing, Facebook, Genentech, Qualcomm, Seagate and Symantec among its official customer references.
Many of these organizations use the technology to tame meeting overload. Some also use it to examine how the habits of high-performing sales representatives differ from others. “There are real behavior differences between great performers and average performers,” Fuller suggested. “For example, the best ones might have engaged with 10 more contacts at each customer.” You won’t be surprised to hear that Volometrix can pull in data from Salesforce to help with this.
The privacy implications of what Volometrix is trying to do are pretty weighty. That’s one reason the company recently hired former Microsoft privacy strategist, Peter Cullen, to guide its path. Right now, reports are anonymized. Individuals can see metrics such as time spent with their manager or time spent managing email versus other employees. But they can’t see what others are doing, specifically.
Another company talking up this space is Culture Amp, used by the likes of Airbnb, Box, Etsy, GoDaddy, Jawbone, Nimble Storage, and dozens of other technology disruptors. The Australian company scored $6.3 million in Series A funding earlier this month, led by Felicis Ventures, Index Ventures, and Blackbird Ventures. “We are excited to back them because there is nothing more important than retaining and motivating key talent at every successful company now,” said Aydin Senkut, founder and managing director at Felicis.
Google is perhaps the most visible example of using analytics to shape just about every decision driving “people operations.” It has used insights for everything from reducing the number of interviews required to hire someone to lengthening its maternity leave to reduce attrition. Apparently, more businesses are getting ready to embrace that example.
ALSO WORTH SHARING
Branson vs. Musk, round two. Another area where the two billionaires may compete: electric cars.
EU joins U.S. in criticizing China’s cybersecurity plan. Many believe the country’s proposed surveillance measures are so strict they will force many foreign technology companies to abandon the Chinese market.
A long-time Facebook engineer is headed to the White House, in the latest example of Silicon Valley goes to Washington.
Cashing in. Microsoft is getting into the tablet point-of-sale business, with some help from PayPal.
$10 million settlement in Target security breach. A fund established by the ruling will pay up to $10,000 per individual claim.
New CEO for smartphone maker HTC. Its chairwoman, Cher Wang, is taking over for long-time leader Peter Chou, who is staying as head of product development.
MY FORTUNE BOOKMARKS
Why you should treat a job interview like a first date by Ryan Harwood
From Sony to Apple: Breaking down the options for cord-cutters by Tom Huddleston, Jr.
Why Nintendo is entering the mobile games business by John Gaudiosi
ONE MORE THING
An idea for Toastmasters. Ever endured a presentation where the slides don’t seem to match the message? Then you’ll get a giggle out of PowerPoint Karaoke.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Technomy Bio: The big picture on transformation. (March 25; Mountain View, California)
Gartner Business Intelligence & Analytics Summit: Crossing the divide. (March 30 – April 1; Las Vegas)
AWS Summit. First in a series of cloud strategy briefings. (April 9; San Francisco)
Knowledge15: Automate IT services. (April 19 – 24; Las Vegas)
RSA Conference: The world talks security. (April 20 – 24; San Francisco)
Forrester’s Forum for Technology Leaders: Win in the age of the customer. (April 27 – 28; Orlando, Fla.)
MicrosoftIgnite: Business tech extravaganza. (May 4 – 8; Chicago)
NetSuite SuiteWorld: Cloud ERP strategy. (May 4 – 7; San Jose, California)
EMC World: Data strategy. (May 4 – 7; Las Vegas)
SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7; Orlando, Florida)
Gartner Digital Marketing Conference: Reach your destination faster. (May 5 – 7; San Diego)
Cornerstone Convergence: Connect, collaborate. (May 11 – 13; Los Angeles)
Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 – 20; Boston)
MongoDB World: Scale the universe. (June 1 – 2; New York)
HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 – 4; Las Vegas)
Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 – 15; Aspen, Colorado)
VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)
Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 – 18; San Francisco)
BoxWorks 2015: Cloud collaboration solutions. (Sept. 28 – 30; San Francisco)
Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 – 8; Orlando, Florida)
Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 – 29; San Francisco)